The Japan Association of Athletics Federations is considering changing the national marathon team selection process for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in a bid to bring more transparency to the procedure, a source close to the situation said Wednesday.
Under the envisioned plan, two of Japan’s three spots each for men and women will be filled by the country’s top two finishers for each gender at a qualifying competition to be held in or after the fall of 2019.
The third representative will be the runner with the fastest time from among those who surpass a standard time, set by the JAAF for each sex, in any of the designated races that will take place in Japan from the fall of 2019 to spring of 2020, according to the source.
If no one does better than the standard time, Japan’s third best finisher in the qualifier will win a berth to the 2020 Summer Games.
The move will mark a departure from the current system of selecting representatives based on a comparison of results from multiple marathon events held under differing conditions.
The new scheme is expected to be decided at an extraordinary session of the JAAF’s board of directors, possibly in mid-April, the source said.
Runners can earn eligibility to compete in the qualifying competition by finishing within a certain placing or faster than a set time to be designated by the JAAF at select races between this summer and the spring of 2019.
The change is aimed at encouraging runners to place their focus on marathon events in the mid- to long-term so they can regain stability and competitiveness and thus get Japan out of its slump in the sport.
The two-step process of making it through to the qualifier and then competing for an Olympic berth is also expected to give runners more preparation compared to the current format where they need to do well in just one race to win a spot in the Olympic Games.
The events to determine whether a runner can take part in the qualifying event include the Hokkaido Marathon.
For men, they also include the Fukuoka International Open Marathon Championship, the Tokyo Marathon, the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon and the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, and for women, the Saitama International Marathon, the Osaka Women’s Marathon and the Nagoya Women’s Marathon.
Runners can also compete in the qualifier if they do well in the marathon at August’s world athletics championships in London or at next year’s Asian Games.